Even more Comic Book Cats highlights

Since July of last year I’ve been posting Comic Book Cats entries on the Comic Book Historians group on Facebook. The object is to see how many different pencilers I can find artwork by featuring cats. Here are 10 more highlights, taken from entries 101 to 150.

John Paul Leon

Midnighter #8, drawn by John Paul Leon, written by Christos Gage, lettered by Phil Balsman and colored by Randy Major, published by Wildstorm / DC Comics in August 2007.

“Why the hell are cyborgs stealing cats in suburbia?” That’s the question the Authority’s resident super-viollent Batman expy finds himself asking when teammate Jack Hawksmoor convinces him to get back in touch with ordinary people by searching for a missing girl’s cat. The trail soon leads to the doorstep of the local mad scientist, with Midnighter ultimately liberating the abducted animals and finding an alternative source of test subjects for the loony doctor, namely human criminals. Yeah, Christos Gage’s story is a bizarrely effective blending of heartwarming feel-good moments and incredibly dark, twisted humor.

John Paul Leon’s art has always been impressively atmospheric. His early work on Robocop for Dark Horse and Static for Milestone demonstrated an artist who hit the ground running, and who has consistently improved since then. Leon later worked on The Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix, Earth X and Black Widow for Marvel, The Winter Men for Wildstorm / DC, and the much-underrated revamp of Challengers of the Unknown written by Steven Grant.

Thumbs up to Richard Guion for letting me know about this one.

Marcio Takara

Captain Marvel #8, drawn by Marcio Takara, written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, lettered by Joe Caramanga and colored by Lee Loughridge, published by Marvel Comics in December 2014.

“Release the Flerken” has Carol Danvers at long last discovering that her cat Chewie is actually an alien from outer space known as a Flerken. Chewie lays a whole bunch of eggs, which soon hatch, presenting us with an army of adorable-but-dangerous tentacle-spewing space cats. Carol unfortunately has to leave Chewie’s offspring in outer space as there is no way she could possibly fit 117 more cats, as well as the necessary litter boxes, into her apartment! Fortunately she finds an outer space animal rescue center to take in the adorable kittens, um, Flerkens. Soooo, anyone here looking to adopt?

Marcio Takara has been working in comic books since 2006. His work has also appeared in numerous titles, including All-New Wolverine and Daredevil for Marvel, Green Arrow and Nightwing for DC, Dynamo 5 for Image and Incorruptible for Boom! Studios. I think he’s a great artist, especially since, as seen here, he does a great job drawing cats.

Irv Novick & Joe Giella

Batman #210, penciled by Irv Novick, inked by Joe Giella and written by Frank Robbins, published by DC Comics in March 1969.

“The Case of the Purr-loined Pearl” sees Selina Kilye recruiting eight fellow felonious females to don Catwoman costumes as part of an elaborate heist. Here we see Selina and her cat Slinky mailing out invites to the future members of her Feline Furies.

Irv Novick is probably one of the most underrated Batman artists. He turned in good, solid, professional work on numerous stories throughout the Bronze Age. Here he is paired up with inker Joe Giella, another artist who has a lengthy association with the Dark Knight, including a four year stint drawing the Batman newspaper strip during the 1960s. The combo of Novick & Giella works very well on this story.

The writer on this issue is the great Frank Robbins, another regular creative presence on Batman and Detective Comics from the late 1960s thru to the mid 1970s. Robbins wrote some very clever and imaginative Batman stories, as well as occasionally illustrating them. His artwork was spotlighted in a previous Comic Book Cats entry.

George Herriman

Krazy Kat, written & drawn by George Herriman, published on July 30, 1916.

The newspaper comic strip Krazy Kat ran from 1913 to 1944. The main characters were Krazy Kat, a playful, innocent black cat, and Ignatz Mouse, a mischievous rodent who frequently throws bricks at Krazy’s head. The naïve Krazy is hopelessly in love with Ignatz and thinks that the mouse’s brick-tossing is his way of returning that love. This Krazy-centric Sunday page is a good example of Herriman’s artwork, energy, humor and narrative style.

George Herriman was born in New Orleans on August 22, 1880 to mixed-race Creole parents. He began working professionally as an artist in 1901 when his illustrations were printed by the weekly satirical magazine Judge. Herriman’s work on Krazy Kat very quickly gained appreciation among critics and intellectual, and he has been cited as a major influence by numerous other artists throughout the decades. He passed away in April 1944 at the age of 63.

Inaki Miranda

Catwoman / Tweety and Sylvester, drawn by Inaki Miranda, written by Gail Simone, lettered by Taylor Esposito and colored by Eva de la Cruz, published by DC Comics in October 2018.

I don’t want to give away too much about this fun crossover between the DCU and Looney Tunes. Suffice to say the story eventually culminates in nearly every single cat and bird themed character from DC coming together in a monumental clash. Before that, though, we have Selina Kyle encountering the very animated, so to speak, Sylvester the Cat.

Inaki Miranda broke into comic books in 2003, working on the Judge Dredd feature in 2000 AD. He then drew Fables for Vertigo / DC, which led to work on a number of mainstream DC series.

Miranda did a great job on this special. The requirements of the project meant that he had to render Sylvester as much closer to a real-world cat. He did so quite successfully, managing to still retain much of the puddy tat, um, I mean pussy cat’s personality.

Sam Glanzman

Kona, Monarch of Monster Isle #5, drawn by Sam Glanzman, written by Don Segall and lettered by Charlotte Jetter, published by Dell Comics in January 1963.

A denizen of one of those mysterious lost islands in the South Pacific inhabited by cavemen, dinosaurs, giant animals and other fantastical menaces, the prehistoric Kona made his debut in Four Color #1256. Following that he starred in his own series which lasted for 20 issues (confusingly numbered from #2 to #21). The highlight of the short-lived Kona, Monarch of Monster Isle was definitely the stunning, detailed artwork by Sam Glanzman.

Issue #5 featured a gigantic cat. The titanic tabby is revealed to be Amsat, a previously-ordinary cat kept as a mouser on a U.S. Navy ship. Accidentally left behind on an island where the military was testing nuclear bombs, Amsat grew to giant size, eventually tussling with the sharks in the waters around his island home.

Amsat is obviously intended to be a dangerous animal, but Glanzman draws him just so cute and adorable that when “the Monster Cat” is finally defeated and killed I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him.

Sam Glanzman is best known for the numerous war comic books he drew during the Silver and Bronze Ages. Among these were a series of autobiographical war stories about his service aboard the U.S.S. Stevens during World War II.  Glanzman also worked in the horror and Western genres. Kona, Monarch of Monster Isle enabled him to try his hand at “lost world” adventure-type stories, and he did some good work on the title. The entire issue is archived on the Comic Book Plus website.

Val Semeiks & Denis Rodier

The Demon volume 3 #8, penciled by Val Semeiks, inked by Denis Rodier, written by Alan Grant, lettered by Todd Klein and colored by Robbie Busch, published by DC Comics in February 1991.

Having been introduced by Jack Kirby in the original run of The Demon, the next major appearances by Klarion the Witch Boy and his cat familiar Teekl were in Alan Grant’s revival. Grant invested The Demon with a blackly humorous tone, which was certainly a good fit for the diabolically mischievous Klarion and his shape-shifting kitty.  This scene, with Teekl dancing to Mussorgsky, certainly encapsulated the grim, bizarre comedy of the series.

The artwork of Val Semeiks & Denis Rodier certainly enhanced the nightmarish hilarity of Grant’s story. Their depictions of the Demon Etrigan, Klarion, Teekl, and numerous other unearthly fiends were both chilling and comical. Semeiks’ inventive storytelling also effectively created a tangibly askew mood.

Semeiks’ first work in the comic book field was on Conan the Barbarian and Savage Sword of Conan for Marvel between 1986 and 1989.  Moving to DC, Semeiks had a three year run on The Demon, and following that penciled Lobo, which was also written by Alan Grant. Since then Semeik has worked on a variety of projects for the Big Two and several issues of Forgotten Realms for Devil’s Due Publishing.

Jim Aparo

The Many Ghosts of Dr. Graves #4, drawn by Jim Aparo and written by Steve Skeates, published by Charlton Comics in November 1967.

Housewife Ruth Roland is an anal-retentive neat freak (seriously, she should have married Felix Unger; they would have made a perfect match) is more than a bit perturbed when her husband’s two friends from college drop off their cat uninvited en route to a two year stint in the Peace Corps. Ruth’s worst fears are soon confirmed, as the cat begins to run amok, destroying her domestic bliss. And, of course, since this IS a horror comic book, things soon take an even more bizarre turn.

Jim Aparo got his start at Charlton Comics during the second half of the 1960s. Aparo drew a variety of material for Charlton: The Phantom, romance, sci-fi, Westerns and, of course, stories for their horror anthologies.

Even here, at the start of his career, we see that Aparo was doing solid work. I definitely love the very effective “My cat is an asshole” montage in the bottom panel. I can so totally relate! Aparo’s editor at Charlton was Dick Giordano, who in the late 1960s went to work for DC Comics. Giordano was soon giving Aparo work at DC.  Aparo was a prolific artist for the publisher over the next quarter century.  He became one of the definitive Batman artists of the Bronze Age. Semi-retired by the mid 1990s, Aparo continued doing occasional work for DC up until 2001. He passed away in July 2005 at the age of 72.

Christopher Weyant

The New Yorker, drawn by Christopher Weyant, published in July 2017.

It’s a political cartoon featuring a cat and a dog. I’m not going to say anything else, other than I found this one really funny. The angry expression on the cat’s face is hysterical.

Christopher Weyant is a regular contributor to The New Yorker. He has also illustrated several children’s books that were written by his wife Anna King.

Jim Davis

Garfield by Jim Davis, published on June 19 and July 15, 1978

Here are two early Garfield comic strips, the very first one which introduced fat, lazy cat Garfield and his long-suffering human Jon Arbuckle, and the one that revealed Garfield’s love of lasagna for the first time. (Our late, much-missed cat Squaky, who was on the chubby side herself, attempted to snatch lasagna off our stove on at least a couple of occasions.)

Garfield initially started out looking very different from the form that we are all familiar with today, but his slothful, greedy behavior has basically been the same since day one.

Jim Davis has used several uncredited assistants for most of the history of the Garfield comic strip.  So I figured I’d go right back to the very beginning, which is likely pure Davis, or close to it.  Davis has been up front about the fact that one of his main reasons for creating Garfield was to “come up with a good, marketable character” so I suppose he can’t really be criticized for relying on assistants in order to focus on the licensing end of things. Whatever his specific level of involvement in the day-to-day work of drawing the Garfield comic strip, it’s undeniable that he created a genuinely iconic character.

Thanks for stopping by. Please check out First Comics News to see all of the Comic Book Cats entries, as well as for the Comic Book Coffee archives. Although I’m no longer doing these on a daily basis, I am posting new entries whenever I happen to come across something by an artist I haven’t previously spotlighted.

Comic book reviews: Absolution, by Christos Gage

“When I say of the righteous that he will surely live, and he relied on his righteousness and committed injustice, none of his righteous deeds will be remembered, and for the injustices which he committed he shall die.” – Ezekiel 33:13

I’ve been a fan of Christos Gage’s work since I saw The Breed, the noir vampire detective film he wrote with his wife Ruth Fletcher Gage.  The two also penned episodes for Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.  When Gage began working in the comic book field, I picked up some of his books, starting with his 2005 Deadshot miniseries.  Since then, he has worked on a diverse selection of titles for a number of publishers.

One of my favorite books that Gage wrote was Stormwatch: Post Human Division, a title set in the Wildstorm universe that was really a police procedural with superhero trappings.  Regrettably, his run on the series only lasted a year, but during that brief time Gage wrote some interesting stories with colorful characters.

Back in October 2009, I met Gage at the Wizard World Big Apple Comic Con.  He suggested that since I had been a fan of Stormwatch, I should take a look at Absolution, a new miniseries he had written that was being published by Avatar Press.  I picked up the prequel zero issue, read it, and was instantly hooked.  And so I proceeded to follow the main six issue series.

Absolution 0 cover

I’ve been hoping that Gage would have the opportunity to write a sequel.  Finally, it was announced that Absolution: Rubicon would be coming out later this year.  I thought this would be a good time to look back on the original miniseries.

Absolution is the story of John Dusk, a costumed crimefighter in a world where superhumans are relatively rare, and those who fight crime are members of organized law enforcement.  The majority of the criminals who Dusk and his super-powered colleagues deal with are “normal” humans.  But that is not as easy a task as you would think.  Dusk encounters, on a daily basis, the scum of humanity: serial killers, rapists, pedophiles and wife beaters.  Even worse, when he does fight “supervillains,” most of them are violent sociopaths.  (Imagine some of the ultra-twisted Unsubs from Criminal Minds, but with super powers.)

And, unlike Batman or Spider-Man, who can just beat the crap out of bad guys and leave them tied to the nearest lamppost, Dusk, being a member of the police, is required to do things by the book.  He has to arrest lawbreakers and bring them in to face trial in an imperfect criminal justice system almost exactly like our own in the real world.

The strain of eight long years on the job, seeing innocents mutilated and murdered, watching criminals get paroled or acquitted only to commit crimes anew, has finally gotten to Dusk.  When he sleeps, he has nightmares about crime scenes.  When he has sex with his girlfriend, all he can see are the faces of female homicide victims.

In the afterword to the zero issue, Gage notes “I knew from writing for the TV show Law & Order: SVU that real life sex crimes officers are forced to transfer to a different department after a certain amount of time, because no sane human being can see what they do and keep it together for long.”  Such is the case with John Dusk.  He is completely burnt out, and the healthiest thing in the world for him to do would be to simply quit.  Unfortunately, he isn’t able to.  As one of only a handful of superhumans on the police force, he is desperately needed.  After killing a suspect Dusk is flat-out told by his supervisor “If you were a cop, you’d be on administrative leave while this is investigated. But it’s not like we can replace you.”

Dusk believes there is no way out.  He is haunted by the victims he couldn’t save, and feels helpless to protect the innocent.  So finally, in secret, he begins using his superpowers to kill criminals in cold blood.  For the first time in months, he can sleep peacefully.  He once again feels like he is making a difference.  And even though Dusk knows what he is doing is against the laws he has sworn to uphold, he finds he cannot stop.  In fact, he starts to gain satisfaction from the killings.  In effect, Dusk becomes a serial killer whose victims are criminals.

Absolution 1 wrap cover

Gage writes Absolution in what I found to be a deeply ambivalent tone.  It really offers a challenge to the reader.  On the one hand, we are unsettled that Dusk is taking the law into his hands and committing murder.  On the other hand, his victims are scum, the worst of criminals, and we feel a definite satisfaction at seeing Dusk dispense his own brutal form of justice.

In other words, we don’t know whether we should be disgusted by John Dusk’s actions, or if we ought to be cheering him on.  Gage leaves us wondering if we were in Dusk’s position would we be doing the exact same thing.

Unfortunately, all actions have consequences, and Dusk’s vigilante killings eventually have the indirect result of causing innocent people to suffer.  Dusk did not intend for this to happen, but if not for the choices he made, it would not have occurred.

This brings me to the reason why, despite my sympathy for Dusk, and the revulsion I have for the scum he kills, I find him very disturbing.  Dusk may have the best intentions in the world, but he is only human.  Can he truly say with one hundred percent certainty that each and every criminal he killed deserved to die?  One of Dusk’s victims runs a dog fighting ring.  Yes, that’s a pretty lowlife activity, certainly deserving of punishment.  Even so, killing that guy did seem a bit extreme.

I also keep thinking about hypotheticals.  How soon before Dusk gets sloppy and bystanders get caught in the crossfire?  Or, worse yet, he makes the ultimate mistake, and kills someone who is actually innocent?

That is one of the main reasons why we have regulations governing the police, why there is a system of trial by jury, why suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty and have the right to legal representation: because human beings make mistakes.  Sometimes the police do arrest innocent people by accident.  Even the most scrupulously honest police officer who does everything by the book is not immune to error.  And power can make cops and prosecutors arrogant, overconfident, and even corrupt them.  It’s human nature.

Would we really want a draconian criminal justice system made up entirely of John Dusks?  In the pages of Absolution, the majority of the public supports Dusk’s actions.  But if each and every police officer had the freedom to execute whoever they felt deserved to die, I doubt we would feel very safe.  In fact, I expect we’d be living in fear of those who were supposed to be protecting us.

Yes, we have a deeply flawed criminal justice system badly in need of fixing.  But I would still rather live here in the United States than, say, Communist China or the old Soviet Union, where authority figures such as John Dusk were the rule rather than the exception.

Gage also implies that Dusk’s motives are not as pure as the driven snow.  Once his actions come to light, Dusk is approached by Happy Kitty, an adrenaline-junkie hitwoman.  When asked what she wants, Happy Kitty simply states “Let’s go play.”  An angry Dusk answers “When hell freezes over. I don’t kill for fun.”  Happy Kitty merely laughs at this and bounces off, leaving Dusk to mutter to himself “Not like her. Never like her.”  You have to wonder who he’s trying to convince.

Absolution 4 pg 4

The conclusion of Absolution was left open-ended by Gage.  That was initially disappointing, as I’d been hoping for a story with more closure.  But it did leave things open for the upcoming sequel.  John Dusk is a complex, disturbed individual who bears further examination.  I look forward to seeing what occurs in the new miniseries as he continues in his self-appointed role of judge, jury, and executioner.  What happens if he crosses paths with his former law enforcement colleagues?  Will he fight, perhaps even harm, his old friends to prevent them from halting his crusade?  And, if Dusk does make a tragic mistake, and someone innocent dies, what then?  There is plenty of territory for Gage to explore.

In the end, Gage accomplishes on Absolution what would probably be difficult for a mainstream superhero series from DC or Marvel.  He makes the reader think, and poses questions that truly do relate to the real world, questions with no easy answers.

The art on Absolution is courtesy of Roberto Viacava.  He did some fine work on this miniseries.  This is undoubtedly an odd comparison, but Viacava’s style reminded me of Mike McKone crossed with Steve Dillon.

As with a lot of Avatar titles, Absolution was released with a number of variant covers.  My favorites were the impressive, hyper-detailed wrap-around pieces by Juan Jose Ryp.  He has a style somewhat reminiscent of Geoff Darrow.  The regular covers by Jacen Burroughs were also quite good.

Avatar collected Absolution into a trade paperback back in mid-2010.  I took a look on Amazon, and it’s still available for purchase.  It’s a good way to get caught up on the story so far before the new miniseries comes out in a few months.